Juggling multiple tasks, ensuring all deadlines are met, and communicating with team members can be overwhelming for even the most experienced project managers. Thankfully, there is a methodology that has been specifically designed to help manage multiple projects simultaneously: agile methodology.
There are many approaches to project management, such as Waterfall methodology and Prince2, but agile has emerged as one of the most popular thanks to its emphasis on flexibility and collaboration. In this article, we will explore what agile is, how it works, and why it is such an effective way to manage projects.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
What is the Agile methodology?
In 2001, the ‘Manifesto for Agile Software Development’ was created as a response to the growing frustration with the waterfall model of software development. The manifesto was written by 17 software developers who were looking for a better way to develop software, and twelve principles were outlined to define the agile methodology.
The agile methodology is an approach to project management that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and constant communication between team members. It is based on the idea that projects should be broken down into small, manageable chunks called “sprints” which can be completed in a short period of time (usually two to four weeks).
This structure allows teams to respond quickly to changes and feedback, which is essential in agile methodology.
The agile methodology has become increasingly popular in recent years and is now used by organizations of all sizes. It has been shown to be an effective way to manage projects, and can help teams to achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.
The benefits of using Agile methodology for project management
Your organization can benefit greatly from the use of agile methodology for project management. Agile methodology enables your team to respond quickly and effectively to changes in customer requirements, shifting market conditions, and new technologies.
The agile approach is based on the philosophy that change is constant and that there is value in responding to change quickly. This allows your team to be flexible and to deliver customer value frequently.
Agile methodology supports the philosophy of continuous delivery, which is the practice of delivering software in short cycles so that customers can get feedback and value quickly. With Agile, your team can get feedback from customers early and often and make changes that will improve the product.
When following the Agile framework, project teams are encouraged to collaborate frequently and openly. This helps to ensure that all members of the team have a clear understanding of the project goals and objectives, and that everyone is working towards the same goal.
What the research says
- According to a study from the Journal of Operations Management, agile methodologies can contribute to the operational, marketing, and financial performance of a company
- The Scrum Alliance stated that 54% of people report seeing improved satisfaction rates through implementing agile methods (scrum in particular)
- Team members that were fully committed to the use of agile methodologies saw a 100% increase in productivity, while a non-committal approach only yielded a 50% increase (as reported by CA Technologies)
Agile methodology: the twelve principles
As mentioned, the Agile methodology is based around twelve principles. Before diving into how the Agile methodology works, let’s take a look at these twelve principles and what they mean for your project management team:
“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”
- What it means: As a project manager, you should always be working to deliver software that meets or exceeds your customer’s expectations.
“Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.”
- What it means: As your project progresses, you may find that your customer’s needs change. The Agile methodology allows for this flexibility, so you can make the changes necessary to keep your project on track.
“Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.”
- What it means: You should be able to see tangible results from your efforts on a regular basis. This will help to keep your team motivated and ensure that your project stays on track.
“Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”
- What it means: Your team should be able to work together effectively to get the job done. The tools and processes you use should support this goal, rather than getting in the way.
“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”
- What it means: Work closely with your customer to ensure that they are happy with the end result. They should be involved in the project every step of the way, and you should be willing to make changes based on their feedback.
“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
- What it means: You should always be willing to alter your plans as needed in order to best meet the needs of your customers.
“Working software is the primary measure of progress.”
- What it means: Focus on creating software that meets the needs of your customers, rather than spending time creating detailed documentation.
“Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.”
- What it means: Your team should be able to work at a sustainable pace without feeling overwhelmed or burned out.
“Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.”
- What it means: Always be looking for ways to improve the quality of your code and the design of your system.
“Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.”
- What it means: Continually look for ways to simplify your process and make it easier to work with.
“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”
- What it means: Teams who are self-sufficient, self-regulatory, and autonomous are more likely to create good designs and architectures.
“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”
- What it means: Teams should take regular opportunities to reflect on how they can improve their process and become more effective.
How to adopt Agile principles for better project management
By aligning the Agile principles, your team will be better positioned for success and progression — but how can you apply the Agile methodology practically?
As mentioned in an earlier section, Agile teams will often use a strategy called ‘sprinting’ in order to achieve their goals. This technique is where the team agrees on a set amount of time in which they will work on a designated task or goal.
Once this timeframe expires, the team then evaluates what was accomplished during that sprint and whether it met or exceeded their expectations. If the goal wasn’t achieved, then the team will need to reevaluate their plan and determine what went wrong.
This type of flexibility is one of the hallmarks of Agile, as it allows for teams to constantly adapt and change in order to achieve the best results.
How to plan and run an Agile sprint
Let’s take a look at how you can plan and run a successful sprint:
1. Define a goal for the sprint.
The first step is to define a goal for the sprint. This could be anything from completing a specific task to releasing a new product. Once you have defined the goal, make sure that everyone on the team is aware of it and agrees to work towards it.
2. Create a timeline for the sprint.
Once you have a goal in mind, create a timeline for the sprint. This should include specific dates for each task that needs to be completed. Be sure to leave enough time for testing and feedback so that any problems can be fixed before the end of the sprint.
3. Assign tasks to team members.
Now that you have a timeline, it’s time to assign tasks to team members. Be sure to distribute the work evenly so that no one is overburdened. Also, make sure that everyone has the skills necessary to complete their tasks.
4. Hold daily stand-up meetings.
To ensure that everyone is on track, hold daily stand-up meetings. These meetings should last no more than 15 minutes and should include the following:
- What you did yesterday
- What you plan to do today
- Any problems or roadblocks you are experiencing
5. Track progress and make adjustments as needed.
Track the progress of each task and make adjustments as needed. This could include changing the timeline or allocating more or less time to specific tasks. Be sure to communicate any changes to team members so that everyone is aware of what is happening.
6. Celebrate successes!
Once the sprint is complete, celebrate the successes of the team. This could include anything from taking a team dinner to sending out a congratulatory email. Whatever you do, make sure that everyone feels appreciated for their hard work.
By breaking down a project into smaller segments and allowing for regular feedback and adaptation, Agile methodology allows teams to respond quickly and effectively to changes in scope or requirements.
Despite its many benefits, however, the Agile methodology is not always the best solution for every project. Before deciding to adopt Agile, it’s important to understand the specific needs and constraints of your project. And, as with any methodology, it’s essential to have a strong team in place who are willing and able to work together collaboratively.
Adopting the Agile methodology isn’t the only way to ensure successful project management, but it is one of the most efficient and reliable methods available.